When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t even know if I could write enough of a story to warrant a book with actual covers. However, as time progressed, I realized I’d have not one book but two, and eventually three, in the series.
I was an absolute newbie when I submitted the manuscript for my first book, and the smaller press I contracted with didn’t always use the pattern I’d heard about from other royalty published authors. It was a learning experience, but we managed it.
Then, through a series of events that would sound like coincidence if I didn’t believe in the leading of God, I emailed an agent and he agreed to look over my second book contract, for a reasonable fee. I received some good advice, as well as his willingness to represent me to my publisher.
One result of this alliance was a somewhat better contract for books two and three, but another was the fact that I can always contact him when I need advice, or an intermediary between my current publisher and me. The world of book publishing is changing so quickly I can’t keep up, but my agent is in the thick of it and gives me information as well as advice and support. Over the years, I’ve been most thankful that I have an agent, and that he is approachable and willing to share.
So back to the question: Do I need an agent?
I suggest the benefits are very good. Many of the existing publishing houses do not accept un-agented author submissions, so that cuts out quite a number of options. Also, having someone “in the know” offers protection and confidence. He or she may also know the reputation of smaller, newer publishers and be able to advise.
Even if you don’t need an agent, it’s helpful to have one, and very beneficial for most authors. Remember, although you will be sharing a percentage of the royalties from the book sales (usually about 15%), you don’t pay an agent until he or she sells your book. A bona fide agent will never require fees for services outside of your royalty agreement.
The acquisition of an agent is another matter. As I said earlier, it was a series of God-nudges that brought me to my agent. The usual process is to submit a request for representation, much like submitting a manuscript, and find out which agents are seeking/accepting clients, and if you would be a good fit. I can’t say too much on this because I haven’t experienced it, but check the world wide web, make a list of agencies that appeal to you, and write up your agent-query email. Then send it out and see what comes up. Nothing will happen unless you step out and make the first move. Here are a few suggestions…
- Jane Friedman offers some good advice and some options in her article: How to Find a Literary Agent for Your Book
- From the Poets & Writers site: Literary Agents: A How-To Guide for Writers
- From Chuck Sambuchino: 11 Steps to Finding the Agent Who’ll Love Your Book (Writers Digest)
- Here Chuck Sambuchino has compiled a list, with photos, of various fiction agents
- Many larger writing conferences invite agents and editors who you can meet one-on-one
All the best in your search.